Tuesday Roundup: Baucus to Step Down


AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

The apartment buildings across the street from the West, Tex., fertilizer plant, which exploded on April 17, killing 14 people and injuring 200. The Atlantic website has a page of photographs from the industrial disaster, which was overshadowed by the Boston Marathon bombing.


Max Baucus, the six-term Democratic senator from Montana, won’t seek re-election in 2014. Baucus has been chair of the powerful Finance Committee since 2001. His decision means Democrats will be defending six open seats in 2014.

Montana Sen. Max Baucus
A Democrat in a state that voted heavily for Republican Mitt Romney in 2012, Baucus has sometimes angered his own party with his votes. Most recently, he voted against tightening background checks on gun purchases, prompting a liberal group to take out ads against him in Montana newspapers. In 2001 he got a similar reaction from Democrats when he helped pass President Bush’s tax cuts. 

In 2006 Baucus promoted rural philanthropy, telling members of the Council on Foundations that foundations needed to double their investment in rural communities. While the “Baucus challenge” resulted in a couple of conferences and a report printed on glossy paper, not much changed in the giving patterns of major foundations. In fact, while foundation giving increased 40% from 2004-2008, funding for rural development declined over the same period.

Feds Indict Ky. Basketball Star Turned State Ag Commissioner. Former Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer once scored 51 points in a high school basketball state championship game. Ever the high scorer, Farmer later racked up 42 charges of ethics violations for his service as ag commissioner of Kentucky.

Yesterday, Farmer added some more statistics to his record, this time in the form of four federal counts of misappropriating state funds and property and attempting to sell favors. (Lexington Herald-Leader story.)

The indictment accuses Farmer of using state funds to purchase items for himself and family members, of hiring friends who did little or no work for the Department of Agriculture, and trading favors in exchange for personal gain. Among other charges, the indictment says Farmer had state employees do yard work for him, clean his garage, build him a basketball court and chauffeur his family – and his dog.

Farmer served as Kentucky’s ag commissioner, an elected position, from 2004 to 2011.

Despite his notoriety in public office, Kentuckians still probably know Farmer best for his 1988-1992 career as a shooting guard for the University of Kentucky Wildcats.

In his high school career, farmer led his rural Clay County team to a Kentucky championship against much larger schools from Louisville in 1986. 

School Consolidation’s Legacy? Rural voters have lost faith in their school districts, in
part because of consolidations that removed small schools from their
communities, reports Ida Lieszkovszky in NPR’s State Impact. One result is that
voters are unwilling to approve tax levies to support new school construction
and programs. Lieszkovszky talks to teachers, parents and community members
about the state of education in rural counties in Ohio. 

Corn Crop Behind Schedule. Farmers are having a hard time getting the corn crop in the ground, Progressive Farmer reports. USDA’s weekly report shows that farmers have 4% of the corn crop planted in the week ending April 21. By this time last year, they had 26% planted. The five-year average for this time of year is 16%. The delays are weather related. Key states of Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota have no corn planted; Illinois and Indiana have only 1% of the crop in the ground.